#2. The Giant Mutant Catfish of Kali River
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In 1998, villagers on the Kali River in India started reliving the plot of Jaws, only with a twist: Occasionally a tribesman going into the river would be sucked underneath and devoured, not by a shark or any of the sea creatures we've been taught to fear, but by a huge mutant catfish.
It lures in its human prey by pretending to be a hot girl online.
Since when do catfish eat people, you ask? Why, ever since we accidentally taught them to. Apparently the tribe's tradition of setting the corpses of their loved ones on fire and pushing them down the river in funeral pyres came back to bite them in the ass in a horrifyingly literal way. A massive catfish (called a goonch) began feeding on these bodies and developed a taste for human flesh. Eventually it stopped settling for the precooked meals that were being sent its way and started going out to find more food on its own.
Even more disturbing is the fact that this particular goonch began synchronizing its attacks by figuring out the times when humans would regularly go to the river for water (presumably eating human brains had multiplied its mental power). By 2007, it became a terrifying menace not only in India, but in nearby Nepal as well, where it also began dragging people underwater, killing at least three bathers along the way. For nine years, the locals tried to hunt it down, but the goonch was always one step ahead of them, leading British biologist/fisherman/TV personality Jeremy Wade (who had caught goonches before, albeit regular-size ones) to volunteer to go after it.
As the old Indian proverb says, "When the going gets tough, call a cable channel host."
Since standard lures proved ineffective, Wade and the locals tried something a little different: An actual funeral pyre was set up in the river to tempt the killer, and it worked. Once Wade had the fish in his sights, he managed to reel it out with a good old-fashioned fishing rod -- revealing a massive, 6-foot, 161-pound monster.
Wade had no way of knowing if this was the man-eating catfish -- it's not like it had a distinctive tattoo or anything -- but the fact that the killings stopped immediately would seem to confirm it. That, or the killer goonch just moved to another neighborhood. We're gonna go ahead and cut it out with the funeral pyres in our area, just in case.
#1. The Unknown Beast of Gevaudan
Over a hundred people were killed by the Beast of Gevaudan, which was a ... well, actually, we have no idea what kind of animal it was. One reason is that record keeping was a lot sketchier in the 18th century when this whole thing went down. The other reason is that all the evidence points to this thing being a goddamn demon.
A goddamn sexy demon.
Reports vary (because 18th century), but the general consensus is that the Beast attacked and killed at least 113 people over a period of four years, focusing on women and children. Those who survived left weird descriptions that sounded like a mismatch between a wolf, a hyena, and a bear. This information has led some Internet detectives to theorize that it could have been ... a wolf/hyena/bear hybrid. We'll pause while you imagine those three animals having sex with each other.
Anyway, King Louis XV eventually heard about what was going on and sent a dragoon captain and a force 20,000 strong into the woods to find the creature, but they came back empty-handed. Then he sent his master-at-arms Francois Antoine after the creature, and he managed to kill a 6-foot wolf. However, people kept getting eaten, proving that Louis XV was just about as good at catching monsters as he was at keeping a country together.
Although he was pretty great at memorializing terrifying shit.
Finally, a wolf hunter named Jean Chastel managed to track down and kill the creature, stopping the deaths and proving that the monster was a ... um, we still have no goddamn clue, somehow. Even though Chastel displayed the body at Louis XV's court and all.
"Ah yes, that's clearly a *coughs, mumbles* yes, of course ... Wine, anyone?"
After interviewing zoologists and historians all over France, the makers of this hilariously overproduced video couldn't find any two people who agreed. The best (well, most interesting) guess is that it was an African striped hyena imported by a crazy French aristocrat who then specifically trained it to hunt and eat people, like some kind of goddamned hyena-themed supervillain.
That may sound farfetched, but when you put it next to "Or maybe it was a mutated bear wolf!" and remember that this is 18th century France we're talking about, where fancy beasts were a sign of wealth and human life was cheaper than smelly cheese, it suddenly doesn't seem that unlikely.
JF Sargent would like you to make a donation to the Defenders of Wildlife Organization. You can also read his free science fiction adventure novel. Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. He can be found on Facebook, or you can read his new book, The End of the Line.
Related Reading: Ever heard of the Tsavo Man-Eaters? They killed 135 people over six months. Some terrifying animals are too adorable to run away from. Like the giant otters that regularly whup alligator ass. Other animals, like lions are just cockbags.